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Digital Illusion: Entertaining the Future with High Technology

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Digital Illusion: Entertaining the Future with High Technology


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  • Copyright 1998
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-84780-9
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-84780-2

Digital Illusion represents entertainment in the age of powerful computers and unlimited imagination. Combining traditional entertainment skills with advanced tools and methods in computer graphics and image processing, the producers of interactive games, multimedia networks, virtual reality environments, and theme park rides are reshaping one of the largest industries in the world. As new ways of interaction emerge, and as innovative new products appear, boardrooms from Silicon Valley to Hollywood are preparing for their own heart-thumping ride into some future space.

This book is the first to detail the design and implementation of computer-based entertainment. Editor Clark Dodsworth has pulled together key players in the field to share their keen insights and invaluable experiences. These contributors describe first the recent developments in graphics, simulation, and animation that have led to advances in interactive entertainment. Then, in discussing such topics as location-based entertainment, image generators and tools, flight simulators, sensory displays, interface design, and play environments, they suggest how new ideas already are affecting the way we play and the way we live. To ground this discussion in reality, the book describes, with good examples, the infrastructure required to develop the new technologies of illusion; it also explores some of the practical issues involved in designing virtual entertainment. Finally, contributors examine the history and the economics of the field, with a critical eye to future developments.

If you are a player in the computer or entertainment industry, or even if you just look forward to a new ride, you will enjoy this book. Digital Illusion is pure adrenaline!


Sample Content

Table of Contents


1. Digital Illusion, Virtual Reality, and Cinema.



The ImmersaDesk (IDESK).



2. The Construction of Experience: Interface as Content.


Interfaces Are Content.

The Tricks of the Trade.

Virtual Spill.

Conceptual Spill.

The Experience of Being.

Human Interfaces as Belief Systems.

Beyond Literal Simulation.

Designing the Experience of Being.

Haven for Safe Interaction.

Theoretical Claustrophobia.

The Power of Randomness.



3. The Past Was No Illusion.

Are We Really at the Front of the Line?

Getting There: Unbounded Immersion.

The World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago: New Edges of Imagination.

The Paris Fair of 1900: Changing Context, Rising Expectations.

It's No Fair.

Tickets, Please.




4. Graphics Internetworking: Bottlenecks and Breakthroughs.



Content and the World Wide Web.

Virtual Environments.



Personal Impacts.






5. Creation and Use of Synthetic Environments in Realtime Networked Interactive Simulation.


What Constitutes a Synthetic Environment?

Applications Using Synthetic Environments.

Constraints on Making Databases.

Steps in Making a Synthetic Environment Database.


Effects of Networking.

Interoperability and Interchange.




6. Networked Synthetic Environments: From DARPA to Your Virtual Neighborhood.


History of Networked Virtual Reality in the Military.

Breakthrough Novelties of Distributed Simulation Technology.

DIS in the Private Sector.

Future Developments.



7. VRML: Low-Tech Illusion for the World Wide Web.


3D Plus Hyperlinks.

Building a Standard.

Early Applications.

The Birth of the VRML Industry.

VRML 2.0.

Current Applications.

The State of VRML.


8. You Are Hear: Positional 3D Audio.


Sounds in the Real World.

Binaural Audio.




9. Real Interactivity in Interactive Entertainment.



Degrees of Freedom.


Achieving Interactivity with Today's Technology.

Clever Algorithms.

Real People.



10. Avatars and Agents, or Life Among the Indigenous Peoples of Cyberspace.


"The Mind-Body Problem"-Procedural Animation and Behavioral Scripting.

"No! Go that way!"-Navigating Virtual Worlds.

"The Indigenous Peoples of Cyberspace"-Autonomy for Autonomous Agents.

"I feel like a number."-Personality Definition for Agents and Avatars.

"What to do, What to do . . ."-Decision Making in Autonomous Agents.

"The Tail That Wags the Dog"-Inverse Causality in Animation.

"Lights, cameras, action!"-Behind the Scenes on the Virtual Soundstage.

"To be or not to be . . ."-The Possibilities for Interactive Drama on the Virtual Stage.

"Reality Bytes"-At Home on the Mean Streets of the Metaverse.



11. PLACEHOLDER: Landscape and Narrative in Virtual Environments.

Virtual Reality as Entertainment.


A Note on Authorship.

Capturing the Sense of a Place.

Narrative and Interaction in PLACEHOLDER.

Technology and the Senses in PLACEHOLDER.



12. Beyond Shoot Your Friends: A Call to Arms in the Battle Against Violence.

Violence in Games: The Dirty Family Secret.

Why Are Video Games So Violent?

A History of Recreational Violence.

A Brief History of Computer Games.

Virtual Violence.

The Military Entertainment Complex.

Now That We've Surveyed the Past, Let's Return to the Future.




13. Applying Game Design to Virtual Environments.


Game Design Principles.

Problems Inherent in 3D Environments.



14. Live: What a Concept! . . . Networked Games.



Dropout Compensation.



Nazis and Dorks.

Group Size.

Free Text Versus Regulated Inputs?



15. Entertainment-Driven Collaboration.


Parts of Speech.

Where's the "E"?

What Do People Want?

The Collaboration-Learning Opportunity.

Collaboration Support Components.






16. Personal Image Generators.



Image Generation Requirements.

Physical Design Constraints.


Applications and Progress.



17. Designing and Developing for Head-Mounted Displays.


Enabling Technologies of Virtual Reality.

HMD Psychophysics.

Stereoscopic Versus Monoscopic Designs.

GUI for HMD-Based Games.

3D Audio.

Consumer-Grade Head-Mounted Displays.



18. The Haptic Illusion.


Types of Haptic Feedback Devices.


Haptic Software.

Haptic Hardware.

The Future of Haptic Feedback.

To Probe Further.




19. First Person, Multiple: Images, Video, and the New Realities.


The Next Generation Has Begun.

How Will You Be Morphed to Your Avatar?

Deeper into Technology-Past, Present, and Future.

Your CPU (by Itself) Won't Soon Render Your Personalized VR.

Real Soon Now.

Further in the Future.


20. If VR Is So Great, Why Are VR Entertainment Systems So Poor?


Complex Systems.

Many Specialties.

Limitations in Technology.



21. Interactivity and Individual Viewpoint in Shared Virtual Worlds: The Big

Screen Versus Networked Personal Displays.


Interactivity Using a Display Shared by Many People.

The Nature of Interactivity.

The Problem with Interactivity on the Big Screen.

Networked Personal Displays.

Economic Factors.

Reproduction of Experience.

The Sensorama.




22. Beginnings: Sensorama and the Telesphere Mask.


Cinema of the Future.




23. Disney's Aladdin: First Steps Toward Storytelling in Virtual Reality.



System Description.

Guest Selection.

Novices' Experiences.

Telling Stories in VR.

Research Challenges.





24. Adrenaline by Design.



Designing an Attraction.

Theme Parks Today.

Digital Extrapolations of the Parks.



25. Beyond Fear and Exhilaration: Hopes and Dreams for Specialty Venue.



Immersion Theaters.

Simulation Films: More Than a Gag?

Our Immediate Future: Business as Usual.

New Forms for New Consumers.

The Hybrid Future: Form and Content.


26. Seafari: An Expedition into Motion Base Ride Filmmaking.


The "I" Word.


An Historical Aside.

The Process.

Where Is This Going?


27. McKenna on Digital Production.


The Process.

Some Solutions.

Some Harsh Reality.



28. Seamlessness.


Multiplicity's House of Mirrors.

High Technopia: A New Film Species.

Rendering: Batman Returns with Penguins.

In Space, There's No One to Provide Fill Light.

Flexibility on the Set.

Audiences, Nuance, and Pixels.

Kicking the Soda Machine.


29. Theme Parks: Laboratories for Digital Entertainment.


Reaching the Audience.

How Can We Inspire the Industry to Experiment?

Experimentation as Entertainment.

The Future: Vision Versus Illusion.

Inventing the Future.

Operation Entertainment: Inspiring an Industry to Experiment.

Toy Scouts: Innovation in Fun.

Technological Playground of Ideas and Dreams.

The Arena of Play: The Importance of Location.


The Cultural Phenomenon of the Sports Arena.

Off the Beaten Track.



30. Coin-Op: The Life (Arcade Videogames).


Why the Coin-Op Arcade?

How the Industry Works.

...Meanwhile, Back at the Manufacturer.

The Locations (and Their Customers).

Where Those Boxes Came From.

Content = The Game.

History of Content Creation.

Rules of Game Design: Pierce's Top Eleven Gameplay Attributes.

The Seven Genres.

What the Future Holds for Coin-Ops.



31. The Stories We Played: Building BattleTech and Virtual World.

Dungeons, Dragons, and Microcomputers.

Stimulating Simulation.


Real-World Prototyping.

Building BattleTech.

On to Virtual World.

Tesla and MUNGA.

Learning Ergonomics (and Other Greek Words).

The More Things Change.


32. The Virtual Squadrons of Fightertown.


Financing with Sticks and Throttles.

Refining the Concept and Making the Numbers Work.

Where's the Audience?

Lots of Wannabes; Few Pilots.

Who's the Audience?

Planning for Obsolescence.

Show Business.



33. Supercharging the Cultural Engine: Advanced Media at Heritage and

Educational Attractions.


The Museum as Attraction Model.

The Audience: Improvement and Infotainment.

The Museum as Cultural Engine.

The Promise of the Future: Converging Engines.

The Risks of Disassembling the Cultural Engine.



34. Virtual Communities: Real or Virtual?


Quality, Sensibility, and Richness.

The Gates.

Illustrations Approaching Market Reality.


35. Surreal Estate Development: Secrets of the Synthetic World Builders.


Historical Background.

New Opportunities.

Technology Developments.

The Skills.

Realtime Content Production.

Team Breakdown.

The Application.



Index. 0201847809T04062001


Digital Illusion refers to the ancient art of crafting an experience in the listener's mind--but with new tools. My professional life, and that of the authors, involves the development and use of increasingly programmable tools for entertainment and communication. Every era's best creators take the tools at hand and push them to the limit. Perhaps the most far-reaching push occurred in 1876, when Richard Wagner darkened the audience and devised Bayreuth's hidden orchestra pit and double proscenium, all to enable lighting effects and heighten the illusion of depth on stage. Now we'd say he designed a more expressive user interface for his work, and we'd point to all the advances that built upon his innovations. We'd also say we've left many of our analog tools behind, perhaps having pushed them to their ultimate limits.

But the goal remains the same: to propel the imagination.

It's just the tools and techniques that change--and the audiences' expectations, the context of their lives within which we develop, tune, and deliver our offerings for their diversion. That context is faster-moving, more complex, more dynamic, more distracting, and more mediated by technology than ever. We give them the ageless stories with the technical and pop culture trappings of the moment, but we also have the occasional opportunity to devise something new. Sometimes our constantly evolving tools open up new ways to entertain or new ways for people to participate in their own entertainment. This book is about those ways.

We're in the midst of rapid speciation of both high technologies and ideas--a Jamesian blooming, buzzing confusion as beautiful, dangerous, and compelling in its own way as any equatorial rainforest. We use the variants and mutations to construct ever more nuanced interfaces between our audiences and their pleasure. Some of those interfaces will flourish, beginning a new cycle of speciation with each success. Along the way, we're beginning to custom-tailor the leisure experience for the individual, and all kinds of training and educational benefits are close behind. The tools of illusion allow us to express our unique visions ever more vividly. They will help some of our formerly passive audiences do the same. And, unavoidably, some of those people will dive into the worlds we build and never come back, a problem that grows as the illusions become more real.

This book is written by top practitioners in their respective fields who made time in their schedules to produce 35 chapters, each about a key aspect of the "entertainment beast" and its future. These extraordinary individuals are in position to see where change can occur in high-technology entertainment and to influence much of its course. Just as a stage magician develops new routines, the authors and their peers develop new means and memes of expression and delivery.

The Parts

In Part 1, we begin by establishing a context for the disciplines of high-tech entertainment. The first three chapters present its antecedents, recent history, and the critical fact that, at heart, it's a matter of the interface, which shapes both the entertainment experience and our perception. Each of us is in some sense an interface designer, and every facet counts, in all that we design.

Part 2 is about infrastructure--some of the enabling technologies that interactive applications ride upon. Much of it is based on work done for an $11-billion U.S. defense project known as SIMNET, coincidentally conceived about the same time as Neuromancer.

Part 3 deals with content design--how the designers put in the magic. Some of their techniques are ancient; others are only now being invented; all the technology is useless without them. This is the how of shaping and delivering an experience with the new design affordances we have and the ways they affect (or restrict) the user. There's more of this thinking on a grander scale in the special effects and theme park stories of Part 5.

Hardware can at last mean cost-effective interactive multimodal sensory displays, carefully integrated to more richly present our fictions. They're becoming more powerful and less obvious all the time, just as Arthur C. Clarke foretold. Part 4 describes some of the much-needed ways that the interface is evolving without a keyboard. It's overdue.

Part 5, Serious Fun, is where it seems all the money is spent-the $14-billion theme park industry. A budget of $70 million for the design and construction of a single attraction is not unique. And, when four million people visit it per year, it's money well spent. The most dramatic and effective high-tech illusions of our era are in theme parks. They push the limits of optics and the physiology of perception, using centuries-old theatrical gags folded within one-off implementations of new technology that are impossible to justify in any other context. It's an industry that must always top itself.

Part 6, the business perspective, describes how to operate a creative design facility and relates two seminal efforts at themed high-tech entertainment. It also has an insider's history and explanation of the arcade business-the original high-tech Location-Based Entertainment concept. Another chapter describes the situation and future of museums and cultural institutions; prior to World War II, they were a key part of our entertainment mix and innovators in experience design. There is also an excellent description of the requirements for economically viable online communities; they're coalescing as you read this and will be important transaction centers.

Tacit knowledge is the essence of craftsmanship. Each digital illusion we make is done with tools that are obsolete before we finish, making the refinements of virtuosity a rare pleasure-so much so that most high-tech entertainment experiences fall far short of justifying the resources expended. As interfaces improve for designers and users alike, so will the magic we jointly create. You can combine the elements and processes described here in myriad ways to develop wonderful experiences. Just follow the authors' example: Combine talent, years of practice and sweat, plenty of trial and error, a keen sense of fun, and a good idea. And ideas are cheap.

Clark Dodsworth Jr.
San Francisco



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